Mar 16, 2010, 9:50 AM EST
Economist (and Braves fan) J.C. Bradbury thinks the best way to deal with the scourge of HGH is to simply allow anyone who wants to use it to do so.
It’s an Insider article so many of you can’t see it, but Bradbury’s upshot is that (a) there is almost a total lack of evidence that HGH actually enhances performance on its own; (b) there is no way to distinguish any benefits it may itself confer upon an athlete from those confered by any steroids with which it is commonly mixed; (c) since blood tests for HGH are unreliable and invasive, and since we can already detect the steroid mixers with urine tests, why bother?; and (d) if you legalize HGH it will send the message to players that it really doesn’t do anything for them, and they will thus be more inclined to steer clear of it and, consequently, its negative side effects.
I’m a big fan of legalization of all manner of things that currently aren’t, and I agree with Bradbury that prohibition may have a glamorizing effect on what would otherwise be a drug that athletes bypass. But I also worry that these are ballplayers we’re talking about, and that they may not respond to prohibition/legalization incentives the way most people do. Ballplayers don’t change their underwear if they go on a hitting streak. They fear stepping on chalk lines. Might they not simply go crazy on HGH if it were legalized the same way Wade Boggs went crazy on pre-game chicken dinners?
Still, Bradbury’s is an idea worth thinking about. If married with a strong, consistent message that (a) HGH is not an effective PED; and (b) it can be bad for you in high dosages, such a plan could work. I just worry that too much time and energy has been invested in making it out to be a wonder drug and cure-all by everyone that truthful messages about its risks and efficacy would fall on deaf ears.
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